Jean Charland – Prodigal Son
“March 25, 1979
Dear Mr. Allore,
… you will find attached a photo-copy of an article which appeared in the Montreal Star and which briefly describes the conflict involving the Quebec Police Force and myself. Leo Hamel has assured me that I still can count on his co-operation and his assistance in the future and therefore my present difficulty should not hinder any further investigation on the matter which concerns you.
Robert M. Beullac, Director, Metropol Bureau of Investigation”
At the conclusion of Fernand Laplante’s trial, the Surete du Quebec had Private Investigator Robert Beullac arrested for impersonating a police officer to residents of Astbury Road during the experiment where he proved that a gun was not fired at the location the night of the Grimard and Bergeron murders.
The charges were retaliation for Beullac having filed a complaint with the Quebec Police Commission alleging that “provincial police officers had beaten suspects, intimidated witnesses and fabricated evidence during investigations of crimes in and around the Eastern Townships city of Sherbrooke.” Beullac had documented several beatings by the SQ against Townships residents. Specifically he cited SQ investigators for having savagely beaten Fernand Laplante on several occasions during his initial arrest between August 3 and 5, 1978. He charged that the Surete du Quebec engaged in “acts of brutality, intimidation towards defense witnesses” elaborating that an investigator had twisted the breasts of Laplante’s wife, Claire Dussault. Beullac further alleged investigators made inappropriate, casual conversation with the jury during Laplante’s trial. Robert Beullac was just one of many in a long queue of Quebecers demanding justice from Minister Marc-Andre Bedard in 1979. The father of Diane Dery (murdered with Mario Corbeil) petitioned Bedard over his daughter’s botched investigation. Before the close-out of that year Bedard had to order an investigation into the SQ police shooting of David Cross on the Kahnawake Reserve south of Montreal.
“The problem is that the provincial police in the Sherbrooke area cannot solve cases by the normal methods… so they have started using short cuts “
“Local police accused of lying, intimidation”, Sherbrooke Record, August 31, 1979
Frustrated by the lack of cooperation he was receiving from local police and Champlain College administration in the wake of Theresa’s disappearance, my father hired Robert Beullac. If Beullac believed his conflict with the SQ wouldn’t hinder his work on Theresa’s case he was dead wrong. Rather than cutting through the fog of her disappearance, Beullac’s imposing presence in the field was one more obstacle that got in the way of a proper investigation – not that that matter much anyway, as we now see that the SQ (or QPF as the English called them) had little interest in solving crimes against women. Charles Marion was a big deal. Raymond Grimard was big cheese. But Manon Bergeron who was found with him was fifth business as far as the police were concerned, most often referred to as Grimard’s “concubine” or his “bitch”. And Carole Fecteau? As I’ve said, true crime jetsam, an afterthought. Did she even get a trial? We’ll come to that.
The acrimony between Beullac and police was so corrosive, they couldn’t even stand to be in the same room together, and at least feign civility and cooperation in the face of the stress and grief my parents were under. I once remarked to Bob about a meeting that occurred between my parents, Lennoxville Police Chief Leo Hamel and SQ Caporal Roch Gaudreault that took place at the Montreal Airport Hilton on the one-year anniversary of her disappearance. I mistakenly suggested that the private detective had been there as well, to which Beullac interjected, “No, that never happened”. When I asked him how he was so sure, he replied flat, “‘Cause if Rocky walked in the front door of the Hilton, I would have immediately got up and walked out the back door.”
When the log rolls over
Jean Charland’s trial for the first-degree murders of Raymond “the Wolf” Grimard and Manon Bergeron was finally heard in the fall of 1979, five months after the conviction of his so-called accomplice, Fernand Laplante who by now was serving his life sentence for the murders. Many of the same cast of characters were brought before Judge Carrier Fortin. An entire morning was spent on Luc Landry’s juvenile record, how at 16 he held up a Compton Credit Union, and his Thunder Bay conviction for failure to pay for a sandwich.
SQ officer Réal Chateauneuf testified that he recovered a birch log on January 8, 1979 under a staircase in the basement of Charland’s home in Lennoxville which contained 69 rounds of ammunition. One round that managed to be identifiable matched four rounds recovered from Grimard’s body. Hard to imagine why Charland would feel the need to conceal evidence that pointed to a weapon used, according to police and Charland, by Laplante to gun down Grimard. Recall that from Charland’s own testimony, the murder weapon would have been retrieved from his house on the night of the murders, but then used by Laplante.
On October 3, 1979, exactly 11 months after the disappearance of Theresa Allore, Jean Charland was also sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Grimard and Bergeron. It’s hard to understand why. There was only one weapon used to shoot Grimard. The issue was simple, either Charland shot him or Laplante, but not both. Sherbrooke justice seemed to be working an angle of, “Well, something like this happened, so let’s convict them both and move on.”
Charland’s lawyer, Richard Marcheterre, requested a review. But unlike Laplante, Charland’s appeal was met with a very different outcome. The prosecution’s case hinged on their chief witness, Luc Landry’s testimony of how Charland had told him at the Moulin Rouge how he “peppered Grimard” in an alley along Wellington Street. In 1981 The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the judgement and Charland was set free. The three judges on the appeal board regarded Landry’s testimony as hearsay (wasn’t Charland’s testimony against Laplante hearsay?), and “unanimously believed that nothing in the evidence linked Charland to the victims”. I guess they needed more dots to connect than the rifle used to murder Grimard stashed in Charland’s house, and that log.
It was an unprecedented victory for Charland’s youthful attorney, Richard Marcheterre, who commented “it was the first time in Quebec he remembered that the judges unanimously came to a decision on the grounds that the evidence was unreasonable.” La Tribune reported that it was “extremely rare for the Court of Appeal to reverse a verdict in this way, ordering a new trial in many cases instead.” Rare indeed, what “unknown persons” intervened on Charland’s behalf? Allo Police dryly wrote that Charland had been “liberated like air”, and so he was. While Fernand Laplante languished in Dorchester Prison for over 40 years, Charland went back to his regular Lennoxville routine of arsons and robberies, and the community turned a blind eye to it all.
On the same day that Charland’s conviction was overturned, and in what the Surete du Quebec must have considered a fait accompli, La Tribune reported that the Quebec Police Commission dismissed complaints made by Robert Beullac of police misconduct during the Laplante process. Beullac had been railing for two years that Jean Charland had been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony against Laplante. Nobody listened. In what La Tribune called “the last drops of the flood of complaints” against the SQ, the Police Commission determined there were no grounds for a public inquiry, and asked Quebec Police to try and avoid acts of “recklessness” in the future.
“We are waiting”
Jean Charland picked up where he had left off, and for the next decade became more of a public nuisance than a menace to the Townships. Less than 7 months after his acquittal and almost 3 years to the day of Theresa Allore’s disappearance, Jean and his younger brother, Marc Charland (the one time boyfriend of Carol Fecteau) were arrested for for smashing the front glass of the Sinclair Bowling Alley just north of the Moulin Rouge. Constable Rodrigue caught up with the brothers in a Wellington alley hiding under an iron staircase. When asked what they were doing, they replied, “nothing, we are waiting.” Imagine Richard Marcheterre’s excitement when he was also handed this case (see map, Rue Wellington is running out of real estate).
Four months later, in March 1982, Charland was back in court again, this time for breaking into his father’s restaurant, Chez Charles on Lennoxville’s Queen Street. By now he had long departed with the disco coif he sported during his murder trial, falling back on long hair and a jean jacket as he faced the magistrate. When Ivan Charland noticed $680 missing from the till, he had Lennoxville Police Chief Léo Hamel arrest his son. The zealous Hamel even conducted an investigation with the cooperation of two Surete du Quebec agents. Charland had only just been placed on probation for another burglary of a Townships garage. By now Charland had a new attorney, Michel Beauchemin, who pleaded with Judge Roberge to consider that Charland was dealing with a drug and alcohol problem. Prosecutor Claude Mélançon (remember him from Laplante’s trial?), said that drink was irrelevant, and Charland had violated his probation. La Tribune was quick to note that Fernand Laplante’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada had been denied, while Charland – accused of the same murders – was set free by a lower, Quebec court. For the Townships, Jean Charland had become the gift that kept on giving.
No shit, Sherlock
I am no investigative genius, I simply possess good analytical skills, and am able to, sometimes, take apart and reassemble massive amounts of complex information. When considering suspects in my sister’s case, it seemed a fairly good assumption that you would not focus on persons who had recently been accused or convicted of similar crimes. My thinking was that the justice process would eliminate them for consideration, they had now transitioned to the courts and were either in jail or prison, or under the watchful eye of police. Or so you’d assume, right?
That sort of reasoning collapses when considering someone like Jean Charland, and a police force like the Surete du Quebec who completely defy logic. The arguement goes that Charland would not have been party to Theresa’s murder because he was on trail for a previous murder, and therefore in jail, right? Except he wasn’t in jail, he was free. He was living at his parents’ house in Lennoxville (where Theresa was last seen) and he escaped notice until the night of the Aloha Motel fire, November 10, one week after Theresa’s disappearance. How could the police miss such an important detail? Unless they didn’t want to call attention to it. They didn’t want it to be noticed by anyone.
“There to see motorcycles”
There was a story that ran in La Tribune the summer of 1995 about a motorcycle competition that was occurring over a long weekend, and local concern that biker gangs like The Hells Angels might be overrunning it. It is an old story, these cries for vigilance crop up from time to time. Twenty-five years earlier practically the same article ran in La Tribune about a summer bike competition that involved The Gitans, the forerunners of the Hells. Boy-Boy Beaulieu was even interviewed, we talked about this in Father Jean Salvail, The Biker Priest of Sherbrooke.
Reporter Daniel Forgues canvassed the audience to check the temperature of participants, and he interviewed someone named Jean Charland, a “fan”, attending the entire day of competition:
“I was sitting right next to a guy from the Evil Ones, I didn’t bother him, and he did the same. And I didn’t stop myself from yelling and telling jokes about them. They too are there to see motorcycles”
“Coaticook a accueilli les courses de motos et les Hell’s”, Daniel Forgues, La Tribune, 21, Aout, 1995
Of course, it helps to be so complacent about these matters if you yourself are a connected member of The Hells Angels. If in fact this was our Jean Charland.
The Gitans Jean Charland – the one involved in the 1978 murders, who set the Aloha Motel fire, who became a public vagrant – died three years later in Sherbrooke on July 30, 1998. He was 39. He looked 60. I was told that he died of AIDS. If he had anything further to say of what went on in the Eastern Townships in 1978, he took his secrets with him. There was no death bed confession.
The Bikers of BC
Very early on when I started this website I wrote about the Fernand Laplante affair. I read about it in a Allo Police annual almanac, and posted the photos of Laplante, Charland, Grimard, Bergeron, and Beullac, typefaced with a garish red background (so Allo), sometime around the early 2000s. Almost immediately, I got a call from my father asking me to take it all down.
He told me an old college friend of his, who had been friends with Laplante, had been contacted by some “people in British Columbia”. When I pressed him on who this was, it became obvious that he was referring to members of organized crime, bikers who the college friend was acquainted with, who suggested it would be in my best interest if I did not write about such things. I’m an obedient son, so I did what I was told, I took the story down. I will note that in 1978, my parents had no knowledge of any of the murders that had occurred earlier in the year prior to Theresa’s disappearance; not Grimard and Bergeron, not Fecteau, or even Manon Dube. This information was withheld from them by police, and they were living outside of Quebec, their local news would not have covered the stories. It’s doubtful police even made the connection with these cases themselves at the time, or is it? We shall see.
Years later, just before he died, I asked my dad about this episode. By this time, his college friend had passed, so I was hoping to get some more information, perhaps the true nature of his urging. But my father changed the story. Now it wasn’t bikers from B.C., it was simply that the college friend had known Fernand Laplante, and now that he was out on parole, he wanted to see that he got a fresh start, he didn’t need me dredging up the past. It would be better that I not talk about such things, and leave the past to memory.
My father only ever lied under rare and exceptional circumstances. It’s not my memory that is faulty, I know what he said the first time.
Thanks for reading That Case Is Not Here! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.